Reduced blood pressure, better sleep and stress relief on a par with medication drugs: it seems there’s no end to the benefits of float therapy. In an increasingly over-stimulated working world, could an hour of sensory deprivation be the answer to workplace stress? Intrigued, I popped down to floatworks in Vauxhall to drift off for an hour in a parallel float spa universe of blissful relaxation.
What is a float tank?
A float tank or sensory deprivation tank is an 8-foot long capsule, filled with 25 centimetres of water saturated in magnesium-rich Epsom-salts to allow you to easily float. The capsule is closed via a lid and the lighting is normally switched off to enable total sensory deprivation.
The origins of float therapy
The first float tank was developed by the Neuroscientist, Justin Feinstein, in 1950 to help explore conscious activity in the brain. His research demonstrated that when you float, the amagydala shuts off, turning down anxiety in the brain. It’s claimed that float therapy can help with a range of symptoms from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to chronic migraines. What’s more, It can also enhance your mood and make you more creative at work.
Floatworks float spa experience review:
Racing over to Vauxhall after another late night at the office, I arrive for my first float spa session in a state of anxious trepidation. Escorted by a friendly receptionist to my relaxation pod, I’m met with a sleek, space-age egg which looks as if it’s about to teleport me to Mars. My mind starts to race. Would I get trapped inside? And if so, should I wear a swimsuit in case I need to be rescued? Noting my mounting anxiety with wry amusement, I receive a demonstration of the lid opening and closing. Those of a nervous disposition can wedge a towel between the lids of the pod to allow a little air to circulate.
Left alone, I disrobe and luxuriate under the relaxing rainfall shower. (Towels, body wash, shampoo and conditioner are all provided.) Gingerly lowering myself into the pod, my legs immediately bob to the surface as my body is propelled skywards by the most amazing feeling of buoyancy. This is thanks to the super-saturated Epsom salt solution which contains a whopping 526kg of magnesium-rich salts – several times more concentrated than the Dead Sea. The water is regulated at 35 degrees to match skin temperature which further enhances the feeling of weightlessness.
Gentle trance-style music tinkles in the background while the lights skitter around the pod in pretty blue and purple hues. To experience full floatation benefits, it’s recommended that you switch off the lights to ensure complete sensory deprivation. Get comfortable with the sensation of weightlessness first as sudden, total immersion can be a shock to the system.
With thoughts of tomorrow’s deadlines flashing through my mind, it’s difficult to switch off and I restlessly thrash around like a demented goldfish for the first thirty minutes or so. In hindsight, I wish I’d gone to the gym first to let myself unwind before immersion in the pod. However, I slowly become accustomed to my new environment and allow myself to relax into the experience.
Neck pain can initially be an issue and the trick is to tilt your head back until the water almost covers your face. This allows the neck muscles to loosen and release stress and tension. After a hard day hunched over a desk, a feeling of bliss courses through me as my shoulders unfurl from around my ears. The whirl of racing thoughts gently slows as I enter a calm, meditative state – something I rarely achieve when attempting to meditate at home.
The peaceful darkness of the pod is certainly a revelation in today’s over-stimulated world. And it’s all a far cry from my work environment where e-mails, phone calls, work and personal social media feeds bombard me from 9-5. It’s not surprising to learn that our learning abilities and powers of visualisation are also enhanced by the lack of sensory input.
Just as I’m getting into it, the session comes to an end and it’s time to tear myself away from my comforting cocoon to face the world again. I notice that my back and neck pain have eased considerably and colours seem fresher and more vivid as I make my way to the tube. As offices are forced to prioritise workplace wellbeing and tackle workplace stress, could floatation tanks become the new ping pong tables? Over to you Google to lead the way.
My float spa session was provided on a complimentary basis by floatworks.